Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Winter SolsticeIt is cold and quiet now that night exceeds day in the garden. Frost has returned in the early morning hours. With the sun just peeking over the fence this morning, I went out to refill the hanging bird feeder and saw a bird pecking at the water dish. It had a quarter inch of ice over the water. It took a firm tap of the ice with a rock to break it. I wished the bird well and went on to my usual activities. With the temperature at 34° F. (about 3° C.) all the hundreds of onion shoots and garlic were flat on the dirt, coated with ice. The potatoes are not in the ground yet, (more about that later.) It took an hour in the sun for the ice to melt and the green shoots to come erect again, but they did. I am learning how durable onions and garlic can be.
Potato planting is a flexible thing for me. I have put them in anywhere from November through March in the past. This is fortunate, for the shipment arrived in November, and circumstances delayed the planting. First, early rains came, then it was necessary to spend a week of days picking persimmons. I injured my knees by falling on them on concrete. After that, the rain came again. The potatoes started sprouting, so I cut them so each part had a sprout growing from it, and dipped the cut side into wood ash. They were placed ash side up on a sideboard to dry. My two cats were warned if any potatoes were on the floor in the morning, two cats would spend a frosty night outdoors. As soon as the latest rain subsides, the potatoes go into the ground.
I look forward to winter solstice when the days start getting longer. It motivates thoughts of what the garden might be in the spring, and time to prune and feed all the fruit trees. First must come the winter celebrations around Christmas. Keep the Light in your heart, for the future will be good. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Time Of Labor and ReflectionThis is the time of year when my garden work is quite active. The Hachiya persimmons are a brilliant orange color hanging in the tree in contrast to the green leaves slowly turning yellow and red. I have three ladders set around the tree and have been busy going up and down, picking the firm fruits which are about one half to three quarter pound each. This activity will continue all through the Fall until they are out of my reach. There will be an abundant number for the birds, squirrels, rats, raccoons, and opossums 14 to 25 feet up.
On the ground level, there has been a lot of activity around preparing the dirt into which I planted 326 Walla Walla onion transplants, and 100 Italian garlic cloves. Each bed has been covered with collected leaves to keep the tender plants from freezing. The onions shoots are sticking up about 6 inches, and the garlic cloves have put forth tiny shoots one inch. While my muscles are sore and tired, I feel grateful that it is accomplished.
Those of us living in the west have a challenge to control Bermuda grass runners. It invades through everything with underground runners that pop up a long ways from the source, as well as surface runners. For a long time I fought it with a blade, cutting it back, and digging as deeply as possible, not wanting herbicide in my organically grown garden, but when the grass came through cracks in the concrete, it was too much labor. I gave in, and now use a little Roundup, far away from anything edible. The cracks in the concrete come with the occasional earthquakes as Mother Nature adjusts herself to create more balance in this world. It requires meditation and reflection on my part on how to work with nature so the balance will be beneficial for both me and the great outdoors around me. Perhaps something will come to efficiently control Bermuda grass without herbicide.
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Hot Days and Cool NightsIt is a wonder to me how the last days of September can be so hot here. Is it the tilt of the the Earth so we are closer to the sun? The ocean water is still cold off San Francisco. I must study this more.
To make space for the winter garden, I have begun pulling out the summer veggies. The large tomatoes are still green, so they will be used as they are--green tomatoes. The Sun Gold little toms are producing heavily lately. They may stay longer. The red cherry toms didn't turn red. The green beans are coming down to minimum production, so they will come out also, as have the cucumbers and peppers. Other than it being hot just now, all else looks like early Autumn. Tree leaves are turning red or dropping off.
I have begun my annual painting of happy faces on pumpkins. It is an October pleasure to do this to help provide a little happiness in a world that still struggles to find its balance. There is happiness in the world. One just has to look to see it.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
My SeptemberSeptember is fun. It is quiet, dry, and the time to rake the falling leaves so the grass beneath can be cut. My two kitties watch me from a distance. The fruit on the lemon tree is a mix of giant old ones, new little dark green ones, and some weirdly shaped rotting ones. I gave the tree limbs a shake to cause the old and rotting stuff to fall so it can be raked up with the leaves. I have begun to feed the berry bushes before topping them with compost, in the hope some rain will come this fall and winter to soak them deeply.
It is a time for me to pay attention to myself also. With all the good harvest from the garden of summer, it is easy to eat healthy, but now is the time to commit to continuing the practice of good eating, exercise, rest, and take notice of the small personal issues that require more attention to maintain the same good health in the cool season as in the warm.
One year ago, I put in a red seedless grape. Just a small plant. Throughout the year, I watered it occasionally but didn't pay too much attention to it. I expected it would take a couple years to start producing grapes. Not so! This month it has produced several large clusters of very sweet grapes. It had slipped my mind how easy it is to grow grapes in California.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Sex in the SunshineI have a bean pole surrounded by healthy Blue Lake plants. Each early morning or evening I pick green beans. It is a happy task so I sing or talk to myself while working. My two kitties always join me, wandering in and out of the vines. This morning on the sunny side of the plants, while picking beans, two green colored attached squash bugs fell into my hand. I had seen attached squash bugs on previous days. They are easy to catch, crush and toss. Perhaps the bugs mate in the late summer to assure there will be squash bugs next spring? I don't know. I don't know if they are monoecious or dioecious,. However it may be, 2 squash bugs are too many in the garden.
The persimmon tree has finally stopped thinning itself. I have been raking green persimmons all summer. There is still an abundance of fruit on the 38 year old tree, most of it so high it would take a cherry picker truck to reach them. They remain for the birds and squirrels, and raccoons if they can climb that high. I will take what I can reach below 14 feet in November or December when they become ripe.
Lots of the tomatoes are large and still green. I hope the shorter days will be enough to give them color. The first tomato bush to be pulled is the Ed Millenium. Its 2 pound tomatoes have good flavor, but are much too slow to develop, making them susceptible to bites and slow rot. Interestingly, this year I did not grow Brandywines, and have not had to deal with yellowed, diseased plant limbs. All the plants have remained healthy: First Lady, Purple Cherokee, Abe Lincoln, Sun Gold, Red Cherry, and the hybrid, Jet Setter.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Leaves Are DroppingIn mid-August the Perseid Meteor Shower came, as it does every year at this time. At midnight, I dragged a lounge chair onto the backyard grass, wrapped in a blanket and laid down with my two kitties, Tortie and Buttons. Normally they are not allowed out at night because of the night feeders (raccoons, skunks, rats and hawks. Probably coyotes too although I have not seen one.) On this special night, there were a few streaks in the sky even though I live in city lights of more than one million people. We all returned to the house at 4 AM.
Everything in the yard seems to be taking on an early Fall appearance: Random leaves are turning yellow and dropping from all the trees. Half the leaves on the Black Mission fig tree are down, but the figs are still green. They usually mature in mid-August. The peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes have a droopy look with some dry leaves. They seem past their peak production. I will try to rejuvenate them with veggie fertilizer into the dirt before watering. The pole green beans don't care. They are still
producing by the handful each day.
I will flex with whatever Mother Nature has in mind, but it is a challenge to decide when to plant and what to grow. After a week of temperature in the 90s, it now waffles from 70 to 80°. I fully expect the 90s to return in September. Perhaps that is a good thing.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Summer in the gardenEverything seems slow in the garden. Or is it I move too fast, with expectations in the days measured out for each plant? I finally decided my problem is instead of accepting each day with its' promises, there is a sense of urgency in my blood, for the strength I have for gardening is mellowing, and it is important to do what I can in this time to help people take back the wonderful quality of home-grown, pesticide free food, instead of the tasteless, refrigerated, shipped long distance vegetables and fruit we are accustomed to see in the market. Healthy food brings back the health to our bodies.
I found a katydid sitting on a blueberry bush. I picked it up and placed it on the pole bean plant. Its bright green wings matched the color of the bean plant leaves. I asked the katydid to refrain from eating the leaves of the bean plants while it rested safely among the leaves. While picking the long slim green beans the next morning, I saw the katydid still in the plant and the leaves were not eaten. I thanked the insect and moved on. Some people might think my wheels were loose, but all the of the insects and plants and trees know when we speak to them, and they respond with pleasure.
The moon was full and bright this first week of August. It helped to motivate the tomatoes to start maturing. I have many green tomatoes waiting their turn to ripen. It should be soon. The ones beginning to ripen at the bottom of each plant gets my full attention because they are tempting to the 'night feeders' that pass through my yard each night. Several have a big bite taken. Since I don't use pesticides or chemicals, these plants are very attractive to the beasts on their way to Jack In The Box, about a long block away.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Defend The Perimeter And Attack!On June 25th, after completion of the previous blog, even though it was very windy, I picked a couple buckets full of apricots, moving the ladder around the tree. The next day, the wind had died down and the temperature rose 10°, making the day much warmer. I went back up the ladder to pick more 'cots. I had picked about 25 when an army of wasps came at me. It was sudden and with intent. Before I could scramble down the ladder, missing a couple rungs, I had been bitten on one hand and my face. Wasp sting is more painful than a bee but they don't leave their stinger in your skin. I had a booming headache for a couple hours while icing the bites. Later I returned to the tree to find their nest site, which triggered the attack. It was attached to the underside of the top platform of the ladder. Why hadn't they attacked me the first day I used the ladder? Because that day was cool and very windy. Wasps are active on warm days, and I had come too close to their nest.
The next day, before the sun rose so it could be done while it was still cool, I gently moved the ladder away from the tree, and will not use it until the young wasps have left the nest before knocking it off the ladder. Today completed picking the apricots with another ladder. I left a generous number on the tree for the four-legged and winged friends who share this yard. They don't clean up the mess they make, but I don't mind.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Living In A Mediterranean ClimateWhen I was young, I used to think angels played games with us humans, and caused a lot of challenges in life. Not any more. Everything that is supposed to happen will happen in its right and perfect time. It is not time for my many tomatoes to ripen. One Stupice tomato did. It was delicious, right from the vine. As I wander about in the garden, I crunch and munch just about anything I have grown, straight from the plant. What do I do about insects? I don't seem to have a problem anymore. Birds I encourage with feeders are snapping them up. I did have a problem when I bought the house in 1973. The backyard was almost dead. No one had done anything in it for years. The house was a fixer-upper. I planted trees, flowers, fruit and vegetables, and started watering. Insects came out of nowhere! Aphids, beetles, earwigs, tomato moths, and billions of ants to name a few. It took a lot of patience to not use killer chemicals, but it paid off. Soapy water sprays, close inspection and picking, turning the dirt frequently all helped. Now, an ear of corn pulled and a bite from it in the yard--nothing could be sweeter! Things closer to the ground, such as cucumber, sweet peppers, spinach, etc. usually need a light rinse from the garden hose before consumption right on the spot.
Do you remember "One potato, two potato, three potato, four?" That is what most of my potato plants provided this year. I grew 20 Sangre red potato plants, but few gave the expected 8-10 potatoes per plant. I have to study what will work in this rocky, clay dirt that 100 years ago was an orchard of apricots and Italian plums.
This Mediterranean climate has had its ups and downs this year. When it was in the 60s and 70s for days on end in June, plant growth slowed down. This was followed by two days of 97-100°, which cooked the blackberries and blueberries right on their vines and bushes. The hot sun also blasted a hundred lemons off the outside of the tree. The temperature is now back into the 70s again.
Last year, the 37 year old Blenheim apricot tree had very few fruits on it. The squirrels got them. I managed to get one apricot. I decided if there were few fruits this year the tree would be replaced. This year the tree is so loaded with cots, even though the "night pickers" have been busy biting into the fruit and throwing it on the ground, I have collected two large buckets full of cots and will get 2 more buckets full when the wind settle down. I don't like being up on a ladder in the wind. For another year the old tree is saved.
The Santa Rose plum tree is also full of fruit. Some have ripened and some are still green. It is the same with the Red Haven peach tree. Some are almost ripe and others very green. I have learned to flex with whatever Mother Nature intends to dole out. And of course, there is always next year, when things will be better.
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Cool Spring, As UsualThis might be one of my best springs in the garden from the aspect that nothing has gone wrong -- yet. The winter was very dry, so large pvc pipes are pressed in the ground near the drip line of most all of the fruit trees which are loaded with fruit. I let the water from a hose drip slowly all night into each pipe about once every 2 months. The 50 foot high persimmon tree doesn't get one. I hope the roots are deep enough to reach the damp dirt very deep, for this house is about 50 +/- feet above an underground lake. The small stuff--onions, peppers, toms, potatoes, beans, cukes are all on soaker hose drip system. The ones that need most water are clustered together, and those that need less are in a different location.
The plants seem happy. Baby cukes are coming out, the potatoes are blooming, and the toms and peppers are loaded with flowers. I hope to put some marigolds close to the bean plants soon to deter bean beetles.
This was the first year I enjoyed the asparagus. They are finished for the year. It is time to weed and feed them for the runners to develop in the bed for next spring.
The house finches are eating ravenously of the feeder hanging. Last year papa finch accidently knocked his nest down when he hooked his foot in it as he launched himself. The eggs went splat! I didn't think the finch would return, but they are here again, in the same location. I do love their musical sound. I enjoy having the mockingbird around also. My two cats stay reluctantly stay inside when they see him. His nest is near the garden space, right above the catnip plant.
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